An Open Letter to Rt Hon Mark Drakeford MS, First Minister of Wales
Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru – National Library of Wales
Libraries are vital institutions.
They inspire communities; they connect the past and present, they record who we are and help shape our future. This is especially true of National Libraries.
Through the range of their collections – from manuscripts to books, from newspapers to electronic resources, from paintings and to their built heritage – they tell our stories. From treasures to ephemera of everyday life, National Libraries preserve the memory of a nation. Without a library, that memory is at best fragmented, at worst lost.
And without their staff libraries are nothing but dark warehouses. A library is made by people, and a flourishing library, like a flourishing garden, needs tending. Materials need selecting, restoring, preserving. Stories need teasing out and context given to connect people to the past, and help new meanings grow. Catalogues must remain current and, most of all, access must be given – to children, to communities, to researchers, to businesses, to students, and to all those with a thirst for knowledge.
Increasingly this must be done not just in the physical world, but also in the virtual. As content arrives at the library in digital form it presents new challenges. Librarians are professionally skilled to meet those challenges and turn them to new opportunities. By digitising physical materials, the holdings of the library can be circulated far and wide, to the curious beyond the walls of the library, into homes, schools and universities.
The National Library of Wales has a well-deserved international reputation, not just for the unique material it holds or the history and culture its staff capture and keep alive for posterity, but also for the services it provides. It is a vital and active part of the Legal Deposit partnership of the UK and Ireland, which ensures the systematic collection and preservation of all published output for our nations. The National Library of Wales is a leader in digitisation efforts, making the nation’s story available to communities worldwide. And in doing so it has acted as a cultural ambassador for Wales to the wider world.
This role cannot be maintained with a staff that is cut and cut again. We fully realise the pressures on budgets, but there is a minimum below which no organisation can perform the functions required of it. We ask you to look again at the vital role that the National Library of Wales plays and to ensure that funding is maintained at a level that staff can continue to engage as a vibrant part of the international library community and act as a beacon for Welsh culture across the globe.
David Prosser, Executive Director, RLUK